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Northwestern’s Commitment to Supporting a Diverse Student Body

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Sometime before the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on two cases regarding how universities factor race into their admissions decisions. Many experts predict the rulings will restrict these practices, though it is unclear to what degree.

In recent years, Northwestern has made a dedicated effort to become more diverse and inclusive. When the Class of 2027 arrives in the fall, it will be the most diverse group of undergraduates ever to enroll at Northwestern. This accomplishment — the latest in many years of increasing success that is mirrored in our graduate and professional student population — is attributable to intentional institutional strategy and the individual hard work of faculty, students and staff.

Understandably, the potential for a ruling that may limit certain aspects of our admission process has created anxiety and stress for many on our campuses.

Let me be unequivocal: Northwestern’s commitment to student diversity will remain no matter what the Supreme Court decides. We are dedicated to supporting and improving the experience of all students, and diversity is a critical component of a well-rounded education. Bringing together people of different backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences enables us to learn from one another and propels our research, arts and discovery to new levels, allowing us to have an even greater impact on the world. I stated my position in an essay that was published in the Chicago Tribune in October, and I want to reiterate Northwestern’s commitment as the decision draws closer.

Over the past several months, Provost Kathleen Hagerty has convened a working group of University leaders that has taken inventory of Northwestern’s current practices and examined how we might adapt them to potential changes in the legal landscape. The group has gathered input from students, faculty and staff.

While it would be premature to speculate on Northwestern’s response ahead of a court decision — the scope and reasoning of which are unknown — Northwestern is fortunate to have a strong foundation of recruitment and support strategies already in place.

Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court cases, we will work hard, within the law, to protect our diversity and will remain committed to practices that have helped us in recent years and be open to new strategies. At the undergraduate level, these include:

  • We will continue to utilize a holistic review of all student applicants to best understand each candidate’s academic and personal context in the process of evaluating their application materials. Our process is built to take into account the diversity of experiences, circumstances and backgrounds reflected across our applicant pool.
  • We will continue our temporary test-optional admissions policy for another admissions cycle and review outcome data with an eye to developing a permanent policy.
  • We will remain committed to expanding our outreach and access initiatives to reach diverse populations.
  • We will continue to cultivate partnerships with national organizations committed to college access, including QuestBridge, College Horizons and STARS Rural Network.
  • We will expand our already extensive partnerships and pathways with more than 1,500 community-based organizations and implement a regional recruitment strategy that focuses on high schools that graduate diverse populations.
  • We will continue to offer digital tours and panels to students and campus partners around different identities, communities and resources and on-campus programming and subsidized travel for students who identify across underrepresented groups.

Additionally at the graduate and professional level, we will expand our partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions and national organizations that educate and identify diverse pools of potential students.

None of these initiatives is successful in a vacuum, but combined, they contribute to an environment that attracts, welcomes and supports the brightest, most diverse students to our campuses. And if they prove ineffective, we will work collaboratively with our faculty and students to develop new initiatives until we succeed.

Once the Supreme Court issues its ruling, we will determine Northwestern’s best path forward and communicate to you our plans. But rest assured, our commitment to diversity and inclusion will remain.